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Acute esophageal coin ingestions: is immediate removal necessary?

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Coins are the most commonly encountered foreign body ingestions presenting to the emergency department (ED). The purpose of our study was to retrospectively evaluate a new institutional protocol implemented in 1998, in which healthy patients with acute (less than 24 h) coin ingestions located below the thoracic inlet, were observed at home with next-day follow-up. If repeat radiographs revealed a persistent esophageal foreign body, then the coin was removed.


The charts of all patients who presented to the ED with a complaint of esophageal foreign body were reviewed from 1 January 1998 until 31 December 2001. Patients were excluded if they had non-acute ingestions, known esophageal pathology, severe symptoms such as stridor or inability to tolerate oral fluids, or incomplete records.


Of 31 patients with esophageal coin ingestions, 16 had coins above the thoracic inlet. Three of these patients were asymptomatic and all experienced spontaneous coin passage into the stomach within 2 h of ED presentation while awaiting coin removal. There were eight eligible patients with coins located below the thoracic inlet. Three of five patients with mid-esophageal coins experienced spontaneous coin passage while the remaining two required coin removal on next-day follow-up for persistent esophageal coins. Three of three patients with distal-esophageal coin ingestions experienced spontaneous coin passage. There were no complications in any of the patients who underwent delayed coin removal either due to the procedure itself or to a delay in therapy.


Patients with acute esophageal coin ingestions may experience spontaneous coin passage and therefore, patients with coins located below the thoracic inlet with minor symptoms may be candidates for next-day follow-up. If repeat radiographs reveal a persistent esophageal coin, then the coin should be immediately removed. Furthermore, asymptomatic patients with coins above the thoracic inlet should undergo repeat radiographs in 2–5 h, as spontaneous coin passage may occur. Our protocol may also be more convenient and cost-effective as patients can be observed at home.

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Sharieff, G.Q., Brousseau, T.J., Bradshaw, J.A. et al. Acute esophageal coin ingestions: is immediate removal necessary?. Pediatr Radiol 33, 859–863 (2003).

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